Breast Cancer Symptoms

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What are breast cancer symptoms?

The condition can affect your breasts in different ways. Some breast cancer symptoms are very distinctive. Others may simply seem like areas of your breast that look very different from any other area. Breast cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms either. But when it does, symptoms may include:

  • A change in the size, shape or contour of your breast.
  • A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
  • A lump or thickening in or near your breast or in your underarm that persists through your menstrual cycle.
  • A change in the look or feel of your skin on your breast or nipple. Your skin may look dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed. It may look red, purple or darker than other parts of your breast. 
  • A marble-like hardened area under your skin.
  • A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from your nipple.

What causes breast cancer?

Experts know breast cancer happens when breast cells mutate and become cancerous cells that divide and multiply to create tumors. They aren’t sure what triggers that change. However, research shows there are several risk factors that may increase your chances of developing breast cancer. These include:

  • Age: Being 55 or older.
  • Sex: Women are much more likely to develop the condition than men.
  • Family history: If your parents, siblings, children or other close relatives have breast cancer, you’re at risk of developing the disease.
  • Genetics: Up to 15% of people with breast cancer develop the disease because they have inherited genetic mutations. The most common genetic mutations involve the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. 
  • Smoking: Tobacco use has been linked to many different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • Drinking beverages containing alcohol: Research shows that drinking beverages containing alcohol may increase breast cancer risk.
  • Having obesity.
  • Radiation exposure: If you’ve had prior radiation therapy — especially to your head, neck or chest — you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: People who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with the condition.

What are the complications of breast cancer?

The most significant complication is metastatic breast cancer — breast cancer that spreads to other areas of your body, including your brain, bones, liver and lungs. Studies show about 1 in 3 women who have early-stage cancer later develop metastatic breast cancer.

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